May 15, 2024
Startup Growth
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 min read

How to delegate to virtual assistants correctly

Outsourcing isn’t new. I hired my first employee from the Philippines in 2010, but it’s gaining steam. Startups have become more receptive to global staff, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward to 2022, when I built a startup aimed at helping companies hire globally, with an internal staff of 35+ in the Philippines and Latin American countries. 

With the crazy growth of global staff within U.S.-based startups, I’ve seen many mistakes, but there’s one that happens often. Can you guess which one it is? 

Answer? Delegating everything, oftentimes including strategy, to your outsourced staff. 

This is a recipe for disaster, as it fully removes operators from important decision making, and responsibilities. As you keep reading, I’ll dive more into this issue, including how to avoid this and an example of a perfect team structure with outsourced staff. 

First, what’s a virtual assistant

Quite simply, a virtual assistant (or VA) is a remote worker, who provides various administrative, technical, or creative support services to individuals or businesses from their remote location. The biggest target market for hiring this type of talent is the Philippines. Common tasks for VAs include email management, scheduling, research, data entry, and social media management.

Delegating everything ≠ success

There’s a perfect balance when building teams, and the top 1% of startups have found that fine line within their staffing. I’m going to show you an example of a team structure that’s doomed from the beginning:

Poor VA marketing team structure.

In the structure above, you have a founder that’s delegated all of their marketing tasks to one sole global VA (virtual assistant). In this scenario, you have a myriad of potential issues, such as: 1) VA not completely understanding customer and/or offering dynamics, 2) not getting enough 1-on-1 time, 3) overload of work, etc. 

It’s no different than expecting a junior marketing associate fresh out of college, to catapult your startup with all of the marketing workload. The end result simply will not work. A great example of this was when I joined Postmates; I was the only marketer they had hired fresh from college, and they took a big bet on me. Otherwise, they were looking for more experienced marketers to take on key marketing initiatives. You can’t expect a VA to take on all of the marketing, or all of the sales work, etc.

Proper delegation = success

When thinking about how to properly delegate, you need to have a defined list of tasks that you’d like to take off your team’s hands. Below is a perfect example on how VAs can increase your team output without sacrificing quality: 

Sales and marketing teams leveraging a VA on their teams. 

In the above example, you have lean sales and marketing teams, but the key differentiator here, is having someone local manage big-picture items such as strategy and sales presentations. Within marketing, the local marketer focuses on strategy and partnerships, while the VA handles more step-by-step style tasks such as scheduling social posts and spinning up email copy tests. Similarly in sales, you have a local account executive (AE) that handles all sales presentations, while their VA makes sure that the calendar is full for them with a series of well-defined tasks. 

Your local AE should not be spending 50% of their time sending follow ups and cold emails, but instead should be delegating to someone for $4-12/hr in another country. This is how to increase the efficiency of your team. Now replicate this for every AE, if you have 10 AEs, or in a similar fashion for other teams (i.e., marketing). Instead of a local AE with a six-figure salary sending follow ups, you now have them with half of their time freed up, to be on more closing calls.  

10x tips for delegation

Over the last decade, I’ve become a master on how to delegate to VAs from trial-and-error, and hope the following tips can accelerate your delegation:

Understanding Needs

From your foundation, it’s important to define exactly what you need help with across your team. Maybe it’s social media management, setting more demo calls up for your AEs, or building a database of information. This will help guide the type of VA you’re looking to hire, and with the proper experiences. 

Defined Steps

Anecdotally, it helps to have a clearly defined step-by-step document on what you want your VA to do from day one. It’s not the same as a local hire, where you can walk through items in the office and always be next to them for any questions they may have. Huge plus if you create Loom videos that are attached to the doc, to explain more complex processes. 

Feedback Loops

Just because your VA may be in another country and is working on structured list of items, it’s important to still have regular 1-on-1s. I’ve always made sure to set aside a 30-min block weekly with any VA, which lets me catch up with them, unblock anything that needs unblocking, discuss new strategies they may have come up with, etc. Treat them no differently than any other employee at your startup. 


This may seem like micromanage-y, but I always like to get end of day (EOD) reports from VAs to keep track of progress. It can be a simple bulleted list on all of their tasks, and the progress from that day. The reason I like this, is because it keeps accountability from both sides (manager and VA) to make sure things are continuing to move forward. You’ll also be able to identify potential issues much earlier this way.

While there are many other points on how to delegate correctly, the big four above should set you in the right direction. If you’re looking for tips on how to hire outsourced staff, I’ve written an entire article on that, as well. Good luck with delegation, and remember: if done correctly, your VAs should make your startup infinitely more efficient.

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